Nick Nurse on Christian Koloko, Donovan Mitchell and halfcourt offence vs. the Cavaliers

Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse discusses Donovan Mitchell’s ability to split screens, Christian Koloko’s play vs. Cavaliers and the offensive performance of the team.

Video Transcript

- The fourth quarter, execution was really crisp and guess that's a continuity of those guys having played together for a long time, coming to the floor?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, they did a good job. They got they got to the stuff, and they kind of got a little bit of everything out of it and the spacing was good. I thought they made the right reads on it, right? I think when we had the right switch, we took it to the basket. When we had the two guys on the ball, we moved it out. And, yeah, probably has a lot to do with it.

It's an important part of the game, right, and I thought we played both ends like we need to in the fourth quarter. Like, we were really digging some things out on defense as well. Creating some turnovers, lots of loose balls and things like that. And then we got pretty good shots most of the time down there.

- A lot of confidence and Christian going to early in the first quarter and the first big off the bench in the second half. What did you think of him, and was that match-up driven with the seven footers out there?

NICK NURSE: It's a little bit match-up driven, but I also just like the way he's played. It was a good game for him to be in. I think it was a great experience for him. I don't think he's probably seen Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen at the same time before in his playing career. And they played really well.

I thought, you know, I think he missed about four dunks, right? But those were-- one was tip dunk here, and I thought he was getting it a count late. Just maybe the shuffle pass could have got there a half a count sooner, and he might have been into his momentum to go up a little quicker.

But I think he'll have games where those dunks will be in, right? And that's valuable. He did a-- best thing I thought he did, he got on the glass, but he also got switched off onto some of the perimeter guys. And he made them-- kept them in front and challenged with his length. And that was a pretty good game for him for a rookie first time out. Yeah.

- What did you think of Scottie's progression throughout the game? It seemed like he was getting a bit caught up in one on one matchups early on, but he made some real nice passes in the fourth quarter.

- Yeah. Well, I would say that, you hear me say the same thing over and over. Like, he's bringing it up the floor. It's not really a fast break, but it's still transition. Those are times where I'd rather see him try to hit the paint and take the one on one match-up as deep as he can. And a couple of times, I thought he kind of stopped and settled. Like, he made a couple of them, right? You know, it's kind of that a little bit quirkiness to his game right, that he comes down and just looks around and shoots it, right?

But he did fire a couple out late, right? I was happy with his game, Eric. I thought he started really competing. He was really fighting on D. He got some really touchy foul situation. Things that were-- a couple of those were, they're fouls, but they're kind of like, you got to really know the rules and be in the league a little bit, you know?

Like on the back down and you get pushed, and you don't like it, and you stick your hand back there and that's, like, an automatic foul. But so we just got to learn a couple of those things. But I thought he competed. That was the main-- you know, that's all I'm asking. And I thought he did make a-- made a huge left-handed layup on a hard drive there in the fourth quarter too. Yeah.

- Similarly, Precious had a bit of a shaky first half and only played 5 minutes there. But it looked like more of an impact later in the game. What did you make of his night?

NICK NURSE: Precious had a shaky first half and played really good in the second half. I mean, you know? It was just what it looked like to me. It just looked like he just wasn't-- he was, the moment got him of opening night or whatever. And he just wasn't quite ready, and I had to get him out of there. But I knew that there was gonna be an opportunity to let him roll.

And he was in there at a critical time when we needed to have some guys out. And he-- again, he started playing, man. He was active. He was tapping the ball, guarding. Took a couple hard in there. Didn't make all of them, but they were the right play. And ends up having a pretty good night, right? And that happens, that's a good recovery. From not going into the half thinking, oh boy, I'm not doing much here. And just kind of get going and then have a big impact on the game.

- Was it the same way with OG?

NICK NURSE: Pardon me?

- Was it kind of the same way with OG? Seemed to struggle in the first half.

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I think OG was playing pretty well defensively, right? I think he was really guarding hard. He wasn't getting a whole lot of opportunities, I think. Again, it's like you guys saw the game. But there was-- a lot of those guys were really trying to do what we asked them to do, which was punch it to the front of the rim. Well, they tend to migrate everybody down there.

We were taking it maybe a half a dribble too deep, and then being swarmed by three defenders. And you got to kind of see that coming and stop, and either take the shot one on one or hold it and then find where-- in the start, I thought we did that a lot better too in the fourth. We took it right to the rim, and then threw it out because there was so much traffic down there.

I thought both him and Pascal were taking it a little too deep against too many bodies early and losing the ball. But OG obviously got it going as well offensively. Got more good looks and the ball was moving pretty good most of the night. There was a couple of little stretches. One in particular where we had a couple, I thought, just not very organized offensive possessions in a row there in the first half. But for the most part, it was moving pretty good. You know, we only got 19 assists. But I thought there was a lot of good ball movement.

- The moment of-- you just said, like, the moment of opening night. Last year, a lot of guys were a little overwhelmed by that. Here. What does it say about the maturity of this group that it felt like a lot of guys were ready for this moment tonight?

NICK NURSE: Yeah, it didn't feel anything like last year, just around here in general, right? It was-- I think I remember this press conference last year. It was like, people are flying up and down the hallways. Everybody, everything's happening. Nobody is like, what's going on? Like, they didn't feel any of that. They were ready, I thought, just in general. Just their body language and their communication they were having.

They were really locked in the morning prep and as well tonight. I mean, we made a lot of mistakes, and there were some really bad sections of defense out there. But there was some really good hard play by us on the floor, and diving and tipping balls and things like that. And that's-- again, still takes you a long way in this league.

- How important was that stretch that Pascal gave you in that third quarter, just to keep things-- keep them and keep the game in reach, in a way? Think he came up for 8 or 10 straight, but--

NICK NURSE: Yeah, I mean, it was good. I think it I mean, when I'm going through-- well, when we're, as a team, going through one of those the other way. When there's a guy out there that's just scoring, scoring, you're trying to come up with somebody to guard them. Some match up, something to break that. It's a little bit-- it's just kind of spirit taking, right?

You're thinking, oh my-- like, we don't have an answer for this guy. How are we gonna do? So that's kind of a little bit, like it felt like like he could just go get us a bucket. And I think that was good. It gave us some confidence. But then in turn when he came out at the quarter, we came out and scored a bunch in a row, right, as well. So it was good.

And I was concerned that I had to I had to keep him out to start for the rotational minutes. And he was kind of providing all the offense at that point. But it was-- and we, I think we came out and hit three straight threes to start the fourth or something like that. Maybe even four.

- When Pascal fouls up, you would imagine, is that because of its ability to handle the ball in free throws?

NICK NURSE: Yeah. So it was probably a full court press situation, right? And I just wanted to get another ball handler in there. Then it became a rebounding situation, so Precious went in, right? So it was just situational depending on what was happening. Yeah.

He played good, though. I thought Delano again showed great confidence out there. And it wasn't probably going into an ideal match-up on paper for him to be out there against their speed and quickness. But he was really good defensively. He really had an impact defensively.

- The best offensive stretc was when Donovan was getting wide on the pick and roll and then starting to split. You guys found an answer. How happy were you with that, that you found it earlier in the fourth quarter?

NICK NURSE: Well, again there's a lot of schemes and coverages that we're flipping in and out of right. And I don't know I don't really know how he does that. Like, I've never split a pick and roll in my life.

But, you know, like, two guys are coming and you throw it through him, and then you end up with it on the other side, right? I don't know how he does that. But so we were going to a blitz package, and he just like picked it up immediately. We never really got him blitzed very good. And then so then we had to go to another scheme that ended up being better. Yeah.

- Nick, in the final moments there was kind of a lot of chaos. You know, Scottie was running around. You seem like you were still barking at your players. What did you say to them in the final seconds of the game there?

NICK NURSE: That we were just talking about getting one stop and getting out of here. Like every time out, was all about one more stop and grab a rebound and go. Freddy was the one kind of saying that. But it was just good. We thought we had a pretty good read on their end of game stuff they were gonna do.

And we-- only thing we did is foul down the stretch, right? We made really good reads and we just thought we beat them to the spot a couple of times, and we didn't. Pascal picked up 5 and 6 there in a row on kind of similar plays. I guess it wasn't in a row. But similar plays, that he got 5 and 6 on. I don't know. I was just coaching it, man. Block out, rebound, get the ball in. We got to time out if nobody's open, all that kind of stuff. You're just giving them the information that pertains to the situation.